The Week That Was
May 10. 2003









2. Debate on whether the atmosphere is warming

A press release from the federally supported National Center for Atmospheric Research claims a "New Look at Satellite Data Supports Global Warming Trend." This claim is likely to be played out big in hearings before the US Senate Commerce Committee (John McCain, chairman) on May 7. But the NCAR result is based on the wishful thinking of well-known Global-Warming promoters rather than on solid science.

The NCAR findings were published by the journal Science on May 1 at ( The lead author is Ben Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; he became notorious for surreptitiously altering the text of a crucial chapter in the 1995 UN-IPCC Report on Climate Change in order to make it conform to the politically inspired IPCC Summary for Policymakers.

The NCAR study is based on an analysis of weather satellite data by Frank Wentz and colleagues at Remote Sensing Systems (RSS); they proclaim a warming trend of about 0.1 C per decade between 1979 and 1999-- These results are at odds with previous analyses of the same satellite data by John Christy and Roy Spencer (of the University of Alabama at Huntsville -- UAH) that show virtually no warming over the 20-year period.

Over the past 25 years, a series of instruments aboard 12 U.S. satellites has provided a unique temperature record extending as high as the lower stratosphere. Each sensor intercepts microwaves emitted by various parts of the atmosphere, with the emissions increasing as temperatures rise. These data are used to infer the temperature at key atmospheric layers.

Since the 1990s, the absence of an observed warming signal in the satellite-derived atmospheric temperatures has stood in contrast to a distinct warming trend in temperature at Earth's surface. A 2000 report from the National Research Council concluded that both trends might be correct--in other words, the global atmosphere might be warming more quickly near the ground than higher up. By contrast, all theoretical climate models predict a higher rate of warming for the atmosphere than for the surface.

The RSS group found a warming trend of 0.16 degree F per decade in the layer between about 1.5 and 7.5 miles high, compared to a trend of 0.02 degree F in the previously published UAH analysis. [Both estimates have a margin of error of nearly 0.2 degree F (plus or minus).] Clearly the RSS results would be a closer match with surface warming, as well as with computer-model simulations and are therefore preferred by the NCAR group.

But are the RSS results correct? I don't think so and will list three reasons:

1. Wentz presented the RSS analysis of the satellite data on Dec 4 in Washington DC at a panel organized by the federal Climate Change Science Program. Christy, Santer and I were members of this panel and heard his presentation but there was no time for discussion of his startling results. However, Wentz was kind enough to give me a copy of his full paper so I could study it. It is a careful piece of work that must be taken seriously; but of course, that does not make it correct. I mailed him a number of comments to which his co-author Carl Mears responded. I then suggested that they perform some crucial tests on the internal consistency of their results but there has been no reply so far. I did receive comments from Christy that discussed the weak points in the RSS work

2. Independent atmosphere temperature data from radiosonde instruments carried aloft in weather balloons do not support RSS but agree with the UAH result of a negligible warming trend (which will become even smaller as the huge 1998 El Nino warming is gradually washed out). Of course, the balloon data have problems of their own that require correction. But the latest reanalysis has further reduced the trend result. On the other hand, the surface data at weather stations are subject to large corrections as well. A most important one - and difficult to remove completely - is the well-known "urban heat island" effect; the UHI is the local heating produced over time by the expansion of housing, traffic and energy release in the vicinity of stations.

3. Finally, we have a large amount of non-instrument data from "proxies" for thermometers. Such proxies include measurements of the widths of tree rings, isotope data from ocean and lake sediments, ice cores and corals, etc. All of these can be calibrated in terms of temperature. I have personally examined many of these published results and have yet to find any that show a recent warming. It is another strong piece of evidence that supports the conclusion that the surface data from weather stations are contaminated by local heating effects and cannot be relied on to support global warming.

But if the RSS analysis is not correct, then the NCAR study is mostly hot air. As science journalist Ron Bailey points out: "Evidently, the strategy being used by Santer et al. is that if their models don't agree with the data, then change the data."


3. Congress indulges in multi-billion subsidies for energy companies

By the looks of the recently passed House energy bill, Congress has apparently gotten carried away and wants to return to Carter- era energy subsidies, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The legislation opens up a corner of the Arctic to oil drilling. But larded alongside are $19 billion in corporate tax goodies and another estimated $47 billion in spending, which add up to the biggest federal meddling in energy markets in decades.

More than two-thirds of the tax breaks will reward traditional fossil fuel companies for doing what comes naturally:

· Some $8.6 billion will go to oil and gas companies for daring to produce oil and gas.

· About $2 billion will go to utilities for generating electricity.

· Around $1.5 billion will go to the nuclear industry for dealing with nuclear power.

If it seems strange to pay companies to produce what the market already demands, consider that the bill also pays companies to produce things the market doesn't.

· The House is proposing nearly $5 billion in tax subsidies for wind power and "biomass" (power from crops).

· President Bush gets $1.8 billion to investigate his distant dream of hydrogen power.

· Other highlights include a grant to study the "feasibility" of burning old carpets in cement kilns, as well as an order for the Secretary of Energy to help investigate how to turn straw and chicken fat into "biopower."

In order to increase the supply of energy, the Journal recommends removing or easing the many regulatory and environmental barriers imposed on production. As the Reagan years of energy deregulation showed after the fiasco of the 1970s, companies that are free to innovate and compete in fields that make economic sense are the surest way to affordable energy.

Source: Editorial, " That '70s Show," Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2003.


4. Extreme Restrictions on air pollution not supported by science, CEI claims

America's air quality has vastly improved in recent decades due to progressive emission reductions from industrial facilities and motor vehicles. Nonetheless, both the Bush Administration and congressional Democrats have proposed sweeping new measures to further crack down on power plant emissions.

The administration's Clear Skies Initiative and a more stringent Democratic alternative are based on claims that current levels of particulate matter (PM) pose a serious public health threat. Supporters of these bills promise substantial benefits from additional PM reductions.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, however, points out that an American Cancer Society (ACS) study that reports an association between PM and mortality shows some odd features in its results. For example:

o According to the ACS study, PM increased mortality in men, but not women; in those with no more than a high school degree, but not those with at least some college education; in former-smokers, but not current- or never- smokers; and in those who said they were moderately active, but not those who said they were very active or sedentary.

o These odd variations in the relationship between PM of 2.5 microns or less in diameter and mortality seem biologically implausible, says the CEI.

o Even more surprising, the ACS study reported that higher PM2.5 levels were not associated with an increased risk of mortality due to respiratory disease; a surprising finding, given that PM would be expected to exert its effects through the respiratory system.

The evidence suggests that exposure to PM at current levels likely has little or no effect on mortality in most of the United States. Additional near-term reductions in PM could probably best achieved by dealing with the stock of high-polluting older vehicles that account for a substantial portion of ambient PM levels in metropolitan areas, explains the CEI.

Source: Joel Schwartz, "Particulate Air Pollution: Weighing the Risks," April 21, 2003, Competitive Enterprise Institute.
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5. American Lung Association hypes air pollution problems

On May 1, the American Lung Association (ALA) released its annual "State of the Air" report on air pollution levels in American cities. Like previous "State of the Air" reports, it is alarmist, claiming that "nearly half of the US population" lives in areas with dangerous levels of air pollution.

Reason Senior Fellow Joel Schwartz and the Pacific Research Institute's Steve Hayward, however, provide powerful evidence to debunk the ALA report.

For example, they note in their report that "the ALA gave San Diego an 'F' for air quality, claiming that San Diego experienced 16 exceedances per year of the EPA ozone standard. In fact, only a single rural location, Alpine, exceeded the 8-hour ozone standard more than 2 times per year. 99.7% of people in San Diego County breathe air that meets both the EPA 8-hour and 1-hour ozone standards."

For the full report, see


6. The National Center for Public Policy Research responds to ALA hype

The American Lung Association is an advocacy group. Its reports need to be judged with this fact in mind. For instance, last year's report harshly and one-sidedly criticized efforts to modify the EPA's "New Source Review" policies regulating emissions from power plants, calling these efforts a "rollback" that would "dilute the current level of protections." However, advocates of the modifications, which include the EPA itself, believe the changes improve air pollution protections. Regardless of who is right, the "State of the Air" report provided only one point of view on the matter. This unwillingness to present both sides exposes the "State of the Air" report as a political document, not an evenhanded or scientific analysis.

Last year's "State of the Air" report began as follows:

"More than 142 million Americans live in areas where the air they breathe puts them at risk. This finding from the American Lung Association's State of the Air: 2002 report means that 75% of Americans who live in areas with monitors are breathing in unhealthy amounts of ozone, a powerful respiratory irritant, which is the primary ingredient in the smog that regularly blankets many urban areas during the summer months. A large percentage of those at greatest risk of breathing problems-children, the elderly, and those with chronic lung disease-are living in counties with the highest levels of ozone. Concern for the health of these millions of Americans drives the American Lung Association to insist that all of the provisions of our nation's Clean Air Act be enforced-and that none of them be weakened. Five years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced tighter standards for ozone and particulate air pollution, in order to prevent thousands of premature deaths, tens of thousands of hospitalizations and other illnesses for respiratory and cardiovascular causes, and millions of days of missed work and school. And yet in the past five years these stricter standards have not been enforced. They have not protected the lungs of a single adult or child. Even more worrisome are proposals to roll back existing provisions of the Clean Air Act, which would result in thousands of extra tons of pollution in the air, risking thousands of lives as a result."

Apparently noting the American Lung Association's left-of-center politics, analysts Joel Schwartz of the Reason Public Policy Institute and Steven Hayward of the Pacific Research Institute, both based in California, said in an April 30 analysis: "Clearly, 'State of the Air' is designed to generate alarming headlines-and aid fundraising for the American Lung Association-rather than provide the media and the public with accurate information on air pollution."

Schwartz and Heyward recommend that, to help illuminate the ALA's biases, the group be asked four questions:

1. Is air quality in California, and the U.S. as a whole, better or worse than it was 10 years ago? Five years ago?

2. Is every single person in each city or county with an "F" grade exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution?

3. Does ALA believe that air that exceeds EPA's 8-hour ozone standard poses a major health risk?

4. Does the American Lung Association believe that, notwithstanding the decline in air pollution in the U.S. and California, air pollution is going to get worse in the future?

by Amy Ridenour, President, The National Center for Public Policy Research

7. Late news:Shock and awe in Paris,

At G-8 meeting on 26 April as Russian delegate Mrs. Irina Osokina delays any announcement of ratification of Kyoto. Instead, Russia opts for more nuclear power.



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